A nice point-to-point climb up and over Mount Sentinel in Missoula. Drop a car at the parking area below the M trail. The Pattee Canyon portion of this hike is heavily used by hikers, runners, bikers, and in the winter, x-country skiers, and the trail below the M has heavy foot traffic almost year round. Carry plenty of water as the trail is dry, and the descent down the face of Mount Sentinel is very exposed.
This is the “easiest” route to the top of Mount Sentinel because it starts at nearly 4000 feet at the Crazy Canyon trailhead in the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area. There is a web of roads and trails in this area, but any of the three trails leading away from the parking area will work. We like to start on one of the trails, but you can start on the road which is Crazy Canyon Road #9959. Regardless of how you start, you will eventually end up on this road and follow it all the way up the mountain. This is a pleasant walk through a thinned forest of large Ponderosa Pine.
A half mile from the top there is a significant junction with the Hellgate Canyon trail and the ridge trail to University Mountain and the radio towers. At this point we like to get off the road, which becomes very steep with poor footing, and take the trail which makes a few switchbacks as it gains on the summit. If you don’t want to hike down the steep face of Mount Sentinel you could take the Hellgate Canyon trail down to the Kim Williams trail and follow that back to the M parking area. It is still worth heading up to the summit as the views are excellent.
The Mount Sentinel descent above the M is very steep in sections, but the campus and city views are quite nice. The trail really needs to be re-routed for this stretch. Once you reach the top of the M you have 14 switchbacks to your waiting car.
In May and June this is a nice wildflower walk. In early July we found a few wild strawberries.
From South Higgins turn onto Pattee Canyon Road and follow it for about 3.5 miles to the signed Crazy Canyon Trailhead on the left. There is an outhouse at the large parking area.